Thursday, August 26, 2010

Noble Peace Price

In today's highly materialistic world, nothing comes for free. No free lunches, no freebies. In fact everything comes with a price tag and the ultimate selling point of anything, whether it is some tangible goods, an idea, a piece of creative work (read the intellectual property rights) or anything that is for sale and is in demand, is the question of whether a thing or an idea or an aspiration is worth the price to be paid for. Determining the worth of material objects, say a pair of denims, does not need a genius, but this can get very tricky, dicey and complicated, when we are confronted with the question of determining the price of something intangible, but which nevertheless is very, very important to our existence. Just as no two countries apply the same yardstick when it comes to questions like the intellectual property rights or copy rights, the same do occur in other aspects too. Human live is costly, in fact nothing is dearer than the life of anyone, but to the terrorists or the religious bigots or the serial murderers or criminals, the life of a man or a woman may equal just a few lakhs or thousands of rupees. In fact it is because of the value that we attach to human lives that there is no end to the debate over the merits and demerits of capital punishment, awarded by the Court of law and thus we see some countries doing away with this practice altogether, while some others follow this, based on the belief that such action will act as a deterrent. Again, there is also an interesting question of whether the life of a VVIP or a lay person are equal in the eyes of the law or in the universally accepted but not documented, views. So while the capital punishment is most likely a foregone conclusion when a VVIP is assassinated or murdered, when it involves the murder of a VVIP, the same cannot be said with such certainty if the victim happens to be a rickshaw driver or a daily wage labourer. This is another manifestation of the whimsical mindset of the human race and while discussing the price of anything, especially the intangible ones, this will become all the more apparent. We have cited some of these observations, for, like it or not, today we have to confront the question “What price should we pay for peace ?” Do we, the general public just wait for peace to be delivered to us on a platter, or is it important to get involved in any peace process as we are all stakeholders ? Or do we simply sit back, relax and silently pay our pound of flesh, demanded in the name of peace ? Ideally these questions would not have arisen, if only those who are supposed to be negotiating issues on “behalf of the people, they claim to represent” stick to some basic facts of life and that is, engaging in a peace process does not mean granting them the license to do as they please and this may range from wide scale extortions, which are conveniently passed off as taxes, looting vehicles on the highways, intimidating anyone at their fancies and whims and issuing diktats which are expected to be followed with the ‘consequences’ rider. We don't think we need to elaborate on the consequences part, for this is the key on which the whole exercise of muscle flexing rest.
Forget about the North East region and let's concentrate on Manipur and on Nagaland to some extent, for the term, peace talk has become something of a fashion statement in these two States, ever since the IM group of the NSCN started talking to New Delhi on August 1, 1997. The peace talk is still on, but lest the people are lulled into a false sense of new found freedom, peace by itself does not mean the absence of overt expression of violence or guns booming, but more about what Rabindranath Tagore penned down more fifty years ago, “Where the mind is without fear,” in the acclaimed Gitanjali. The peace talk with the IM group has been experienced by the Nagas of Nagaland and Manipur all these years, but can they really say that their mind is not without fear ? Are they free, as universally accepted, from the diktats of its armed cadres, who even go to the extent of levying taxes on charcoals being sold by the marginal farmers in places like Ukhrul ? The answer should be obvious to all. The other is of course, the much talked about and which is currently in the news, the Suspension of Operations between the Kuki armed groups and the State and Central Governments. Any journey or initiatives towards peace is always welcome, but the question of larger importance is whether the price that the people are expected to pay for peace to become a reality is proportionate to the final outcome that will come. To many observers, the SoO pact is more like giving a free hand to the militants to impose their diktats and move around freely, something which was not possible earlier. The fault here lies in the utter failure of the Government to implement the cease fire ground rules in letter and spirit. By all appearances and indications, it is more than obvious that the security personnel are contented with the fact that the number of their adversaries have seen a marked decrease, thanks to SoO. This rankles and the overt and naked threats issued against a reporter of the Lamka Post in Churachandpur is nothing but a manifestation of the manner in which cadres of these armed groups are slowly showing their true colours—the transformation from the cover of revolutionaries to plain goons is complete. The Joint Monitoring Group will be committing a gross mistake or an error of judgement, if they are under the impression that their periodical meetings are enough to say that they are on the road to peace, but behind the mask of revolutionaries and working for peace, the lurking characteristics of these elements are not going to stop them from optimising the new found “license to kill, maim, loot and threaten ,” wittingly or unwittingly. The Manipur Hills Journalists' Union has already closed ranks and launched their first phase of agitation and while this commentary is not on whether the report filed in the Lamka Post is correct or not, the overt threat to the reporter cannot be tolerated. The JMG should act, or else SoO may end up like the last letter, which looks like a Zero.

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